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History And Hits in Auckland Theatre Company’s 2020 Season


New Kiwi comedy, international drama, verbatim theatre, Ibsen and an audacious rock musical are in the line-up for Auckland’s longest running professional theatre organisation Auckland Theatre Company (ATC) next year.

Following a buoyant 2019 season which saw audiences flock to ASB Waterfront Theatre, ATC’s bold 2020 season will ride the momentum with seven diverse plays from Aotearoa and around the world.

ATC Artistic Director Colin McColl ONZM says, “Many of the extraordinary characters in our new season are pushing for change or coping with major transformation in their lives - in funny, compassionate, angry, manipulative, joyful, engrossing, courageous, madcap and entertaining ways. Next year’s line-up exemplifies the power of theatre in helping us understand ourselves, one another, the world around us and the impact of the past on our future.”

The 2020 season kicks off in February with the world premiere of a new work by New Zealand’s most successful playwright, Sir Roger Hall.

Hall's new comedy Winding Up revisits two characters at the heart of his smash-hit play, Conjugal Rites, which subsequently became a popular British TV series.

Starring as the hilarious Barry and Gen - now in their seventies and coping with failing health, death of friends, estranged family, the need to downsize and (God help us) planning their funerals - are two of the country’s most celebrated comic actors, Mark Hadlow ONZM (Shortland Street - The Musical, MAMiL, The Hobbit trilogy) and Alison Quigan QSM (A Shortcut to Happiness, Calendar Girls, Shortland Street). The duo memorably performed together in ATC’s production of Hall’s Last Legs in 2017.

The second play is another new work; Black Lover by Stanley Makuwe. Originally from Zimbabwe, New Zealand playwright Makuwe explores the story of ex-pat Kiwi Sir Garfield Todd, Prime Minister of Rhodesia 1953-1958, who was criticised for being too vocal in his support for equal rights in Zimbabwe and was labeled ‘Black Lover’ by his detractors.

Todd has been dumped as Prime Minister of Rhodesia and confined to house-arrest by the Government. As troops and rebels battle around them, Todd and his family’s cook, Steady, debate the state of their nation and the future they see for their children. This gripping two-hander, which is being performed as part of Auckland Arts Festival at the Q Loft, stars Cameron Rhodes (The Audience, Lysistrata, Mr Pip) and Simbarashe Matshe (Filthy Business, AFK, Frontiersman), and will be directed by Roy Ward (At the Wake, Black Faggot).

May brings the inspirational true story of Helen Keller in the award-winning play The Miracle Worker by William Gibson.

Blind and deaf from infancy, Keller overcame extreme adversity with the help of her extraordinary teacher Annie Sullivan. The Miracle Worker stars Laurel Devenie (A Doll’s House, On the Upside Down of the World, Shortland Street) and 16-year-old Emma Kemp as the young Helen Keller, and will be directed by Margaret-Mary Hollins (Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Te Meke Tui, Night of the Queer).

Opening in New Zealand Sign Language Week, ATC’s season of this American modern classic will include accessibility assisted performances including NZSL interpreted performances, touch tours and audio described performances.

ATC's mid-winter show is Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder, a new version by Colin McColl.

McColl has directed Ibsen plays for the Norwegian National Theatre and the Dutch National Theatre, as well as a number of leading New Zealand and Australian theatre companies, including ATC (A Doll’s House). His 1990 production of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler played to great acclaim at the Edinburgh Festival and the Ibsen Festival in Oslo, the Covent Garden Festival in London and the 1991 Sydney Festival.

In The Master Builder, widely regarded as one of Ibsen’s most fascinating and enigmatic works, an ageing successful builder has his creative flame reignited by a young woman from his past. Much loved New Zealand actor Andrew Grainger (Six Degrees of Separation, Filthy Business, Once on Chunuk Bair) will play Solness the Master Builder with Kalyani Nagarajan (A Fine Balance, TEA, Mrs Krishnan’s Party) as Hilde Wangel.

The Haka Party Incident, created and directed by film-maker, writer, actor and director Katie Wolfe (Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Tama), has its mainstage debut at Q Theatre in July. This remarkable piece of verbatim theatre about a significant incident in New Zealand’s history was initially presented as a hugely popular staged reading as part of ATC’s 2017 Navigators season.

Through the unique medium of documentary theatre, Wolfe explores the events which occurred in Auckland in 1979 between the University of Auckland engineering students preparing for their annual mock haka down Queen Street and members of activist group He Taua. Violence erupted that sent ripples through the nation and changed race relations in Aotearoa forever.

The Haka Party Incident cast includes Ana Scotney (Mr Burns, Shortland Street, The Breaker Upperers) and Neenah Dekkers-Reihana (Anahera, Encounters, Happy Playland).

The New Zealand premiere of stylish American comedy By the Way, Meet Vera Stark is next, directed by the multi-talented Miriama McDowell.

Vera Stark is the real-life maid to Gloria Mitchell, a white Hollywood starlet. But Vera herself is also hoping to make a break on the big screen. With all the humour, glamour and intrigue of Hollywood in the 1930s, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark - written by two-time Pulitzer prize winner Lynn Nottage - is a semi-biographical dramedy which shines a light on the career options for Afro-American female actors in the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood.

ATC's seventh and final show for the year will be the outrageous, glittertastic rock ‘n’ roll musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Winner of multiple Tony Awards for its Broadway revival in 2014 starring Neil Patrick Harris, this cult musical by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask follows the story of Hedwig, a transgender East Berlin rocker-slash-diva who lands on the New York stage.

Directed by Shane Bosher (Angels in America, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cock), Hedwig and the Angry Inch is an electrifying celebration of personal transformation, gender fluidity and self-expression.

With music strongly influenced by glam-rock greats such as David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, and described as one of the “greatest rock musicals ever written”, this epic show is a sizzling blend of German cabaret, dark humour and high-octane rock. Hedwig will lift the roof of ASB Waterfront Theatre come November 2020.

Subscriptions are now open for Auckland Theatre Company’s highly anticipated 2020 season. To subscribe or to order a copy of the 2020 season brochure, please visit
Public ticket sales open on 9 January 2020.

Mark Graham, ASB head of Community and Sponsorship says, “ASB has a long and dedicated history of supporting the arts in New Zealand, most notably through our principal partnership with the Auckland Theatre Company. We’re excited every year to see the shows the company puts on at ASB Waterfront Theatre, and we’re looking forward to another exciting season and to showcasing some of the best local and international talent.”


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